Startup OnePlus Takes on the Big Boys…at a Value


Keeping up to date with the latest and greatest in smartphones is a costly venture. New devices come out frequently and each company feels compelled to refresh their devices and software on a yearly basis. China-based startup, OnePlus, is looking to change all that with their OnePlus One. Deemed a “flagship killer,” the OnePlus One touts premium specs at less than half the price of on-market top-tier phones.

This smartphone carries a massive 5.5 inch screen at 1920 x 1080p coming in just under the pixel density of LG and Samsung’s top-tier phones. The processor, on the other hand, is absolutely top of the line with a quad-core 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU (which powers the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5) running off of 3 GB of RAM. As far as memory is concerned, the phone comes in two variants, a 16 GB and 64 GB model priced at US$299 and US$349, respectively with 3G and 4G included* in each model.

The most interesting feature of the OnePlus One isn’t hardware, it’s the software powering the interface once the phone gets into use. Unlike the in-house firmware of Samsung and LG, OnePlus collaborated with the minds behind the popular CyanogenMod to create a customizable Android experience.

CyanogenMod is a long running third-party firmware popular for their high-degree of customization from icons and menus to the way applications behave. The many different skins and modifications available to CyanogenMod users can replicate the experience of having a Samsung, LG or HTC phone. Users can take it further still and mix and match their favorite features to create a unique experience.

Early reviews have been positive but there are two major drawbacks: lack of SD card support and inability to change out the battery. With the LG G3 priced at US$700** and the Samsung Galaxy S5 priced at US$850**, it seems more than acceptable that OnePlus left out a few features to offer a much lower price point. While OnePlus isn’t the first to attempt to offer high quality at a lower price, previous endeavors have all fallen short. Google’s own Nexus line doesn’t have the hardware to match OnePlus’ first offering. With two exceptions, the quality of hardware and software is starting to make people wonder about the high price points of existing flagship phones. More specifically, “If a startup can do it, why can’t a larger manufacturer?”

While technically available, OnePlus is allowing purchases through invite-only. Even reaching the payment window requires a username and password provided through an invitation email. Regardless, at $299 and $349, the OnePlus One should make anyone think twice before buying their next smartphone.




* The 3G and 4G specifications place it well within the range of SKT and KT networks for major metropolitan areas.

** Approximate prices from SKT and LG U+ websites.